Reepicheep ran a hand over his belt until it rested on his sword hilt. He looked up at the centaur who'd carried him and his people to the bank of the river and said, "thank you for your kind services, friend. We will take it from here and be back to the camp before morning." The centaur nodded, hiding a smile in the action. So small of stature, and yet the mouse had such a grand heart. Silently, he turned tail and headed back into the comforting concealment of the forest. The mice turned in the opposite direction and eyed the camp of men.
Eyeing his troops, Reepicheep commanded, "Peepicheep, take six comrades and disturb the finished construction work. The rest shall follow me and make life in the camp rather a trial." He twirled his whiskers as a few of the mice chuckled. Their orders from Caspian were to harm no one, but there was plenty else a mouse could do to make the coming day unpleasant. They set out. Peepicheep's group quickly boarded the unfinished bridge and started chewing away at the various ropes binding the pieces together. The ropes were thick and covered in tar, but mice exhibited a particular valour when knowing through cord and ropes. It was, after all, the deed that had earned them their speech, and they kept up the diligent work.
Reepicheep's much larger group scurried into the camp and split up again. The three with the best sense of smell were ordered to find the kitchen and wreak havoc, while the remaining mice discovered the tool shed. "Quickly, grab any hammers and small tools you can. We shall dump them in the river!" They eagerly nodded and began loading what tools they could manage onto their backs. The group was halfway back to the banks when a light came around the corner of the massed tents.
All of them froze. Please, Great Lion, do not let the light glint off the tools, Reepicheep prayed. They stood, stock still, on the bank and strained their ears to listen to the footsteps. Were they slowing, coming closer?
Were they about to be discovered?
No, the footsteps retreated and the mice breathed a quiet sigh of relief. They continued their trek, slid the tools into the river just far enough for the current to catch and sweep downstream, and went to collect their fellow mice. The three they'd sent to the cook tent returned when they were halfway to the bridge. "We split the seams of several of their bags of preserved goods," they reported. "Breakfast will be a little slow for the men," they added with a bit of delight.
Reepicheep nodded. "Did any guards see you?" They shook their heads. "Good. We must just collect the others, swim across the river, and get back to camp." Which they then did. The first blow of the War for Old Narnia had been struck, and the other side didn't even know it yet.
Miriam threw a look over her shoulder as she skirted the tanner's. Good, no one was following her. The pine needles were soft and muffled her footsteps as she crept between the trees. Please, let it be what she thought. Her brother and her had traded secrets under bedcovers for years, thinking about talking ravens, giants, but most of all the flying beasts. If she'd seen what she thought she saw in the sky only an hour ago…well she'd be sneaking into the army camp to tell him about it, guard or no.
Leaves rustled off to her right and she clutched the branch in her hand tighter, just in case it was something other than what she hoped for. Slowing even further, she padded quietly around the bush the noise had come from and caught a glimpse of something tawny in color. Quickly, she hid behind a tree trunk. Something was there, and it was big. This could either be everything she'd hoped, or something she had no chance against. With a deep breath, she peeked around the edge of the trunk.
She forgot to let it back out.
Huge enormous feathered wings swept back against furred haunches that ended in a tufted tail. A gleaming beak curved downward, looking even more deadly than the talons on its front feet. Seamlessly, the feathers on its head and neck blended into the tawny fur of its body, and it's sharp eyes were fixed on her. Terror and excitement shot up her spine with equal intensity and she whipped her head back behind the tree. It was a griffin. It was actually a griffin! She might die in the next two seconds because what match was her stick against those talons but she'd actually seen a griffin!
"I'm not going to hurt you, small one." The voice was coming from behind her and she dared another look. The beast had taken a step towards her, but the corner of its beak had turned up and the slant of his eye had changed to something that looked less like it was going to eat her. The terror in her blood faded just the slightest hint and she took a step away from her shield.
Andrew sulked as he threw another log on the watchfire and sighed. Technically, his relief should have already arrived, but as the man was of higher rank, he'd obviously decided Andrew needed less sleep than his more important self and had left the young man there in the dark to wait out the remainder of the night. Ah well. At least he was alone. The very young man let his grip on the spear slacken a touch more as he tipped his head back and looked up at the starry sky, picking out the constellations he and his younger sister had loved. Not the legendary Telmarine warriors. No, he looked for the Narnian stars, the figures of forbidden stories. Sadly, he could barely make them out because of the firelight, but if he squinted his eyes hard enough…
Something large blotted out several stars. He clutched his spear more tightly as he heard it land not too far away, just inside the boundary of the forest. Tempting though it was to stay close by the fire, Andrew ventured a bit further until he could touch the bushes with his spear point. A small, furry thing ran out of the leaves and Andrew drew back his spear to strike.
"Please, don't do that," the thing said. The soldier dropped his spear and his eyes widened to the size of dinner plates. "Are you Andrew?" The critter asked, seemingly unsurprised by his attitude. The youth nodded. "My name is Pattertwig. Metaphil and I met your sister Miriam a few days ago. Here, she gave me this for you." The squirrel, Andrew finally realized with a jolt, held out a piece of white cloth. Slowly, he reached out a hand that just brushed the critter's furry paw before he drew it back and looked at the cloth. It was one of his sister's handkerchiefs. No one else embroidered their initials so badly, with knots everywhere.
He smiled at the familiar cloth, then looked at the messenger again. Miriam always hoped they weren't gone, he thought. "Did she give you a message for me, my Narnian friend?" Andrew asked. He'd freak out more thoroughly later. He didn't want to look a fool in front of his very first Narnian.
The squirrel smiled at him, which should have looked odd with his furry face but somehow didn't. "She said, if you want to see giants, follow the squirrel." Andrew ran back into the camp to gather his gear.
Wow! It's been too long since I took a leap into this realm for a spin. I hope I still remember all the plans I had for it. Still, here we see the planning from last chapter come to fruition, and yet more OCs. Maybe, since Mr. Lewis didn't do a whole lot of fleshing out for many of the Narnians, I feel compelled to fill the ranks a little. The guy was a great writer (seriously, I love the Screwtape Letters) but his characters can be a bit dry. As always, if you have anything to say, please do. Comments are always appreciated.